Upstate New York’s population began to decline at a faster rate between mid-2014 and 2015, according to updated Census Bureau estimates.

As of last July 1, the 50 counties north of the mid-Hudson Valley had a combined population of 6,307,573—down 17,623 from the Census Bureau estimate of a year earlier. The drop in 2014-15 alone exceeded the population decrease in the previous four years, bringing the total population decline since the 2010 census to 31,740 people, or 0.5 percent. By contrast, upstate New York’s population increased by 52,074, or 0.8 percent, between 2000 and 2010.

Forty-one of the 50 upstate counties lost population between 2010 and 2015—also in contrast to 2000-2010, when only 18 upstate counties lost residents. Nonetheless, growth in New York City was strong enough to push up the state’s total population by 417,704 people, or 2.2 percent, during the latest five-year period (see Table 2).

As detailed below, migration explains much of the difference between upstate and downstate trends. All regions have lost population due to domestic migration—the movement of residents to other states (and across county lines)—and the rate of migration to other states is higher for New York City than for most upstate counties. But “natural increase” from childbirths and an influx of foreign immigrants more than offset the downstate loss.

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Highlights of 2010-15 Census Bureau estimates for New York

(See Tables 1 and 2 for more details)

  • Kings County (Brooklyn) led the state with a population gain of 132,025 people, a growth rate of nearly 5.3 percent, thanks largely to a 135,380-person “natural increase,” calculated as resident births minus resident deaths. Jefferson County, home to the Army base at Ft. Drum, had the largest natural increase on a percentage basis, boosting its overall population growth rate to 14th highest in the state (21.2 percent) despite also having a relatively large net migration loss.
  • Schoharie and Delaware counties, both devastated by Hurricane Irene in 2011, had the largest population losses, exceeding 4 percent of their respective 2010 census counts. Sullivan and Greene counties in the Catskills were not far behind, down more than 3 percent each, as was Chenango.
  • Every county/borough of New York City had a net migration gain except for Richmond (Staten Island), which lost 3,539 more residents than it gained from other states and countries. Outside the city, net migration gains were estimated for nine counties, including Albany, Erie, Nassau, Ontario, Rockland, Saratoga, Schuyler, Tompkins and Westchester.
  • Ontario, Saratoga and Hamilton were the only counties to have positive domestic migration rates, meaning they attracted more new residents from the rest of the nation, including other New York counties, than they lost. (See Figure 2)
  • Sparsely populated Hamilton remained the only county to have attracted no foreign immigrants since the last census. Tioga has lost a net 15 residents to foreign countries. Other counties with very low percentage gains from foreign immigrations included Washington, Chenango, Fulton, Washington and Warren.

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About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

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